This week, I'm diving into the extreme-beer end of the spectrum with a beer brewed with actual oysters: the Pearl Diver Saison from Funky Buddha Brewery.
It's a collaborative effort between the Oakland Park brewery and G&B Oyster Bar, which supplied the venerable mollusks.
You might be thinking, Oysters in beer? What the hell! That's weird!. But worry not, because beer and oysters have been with each other for a long time.
According to the American Homebrewer's Association, oyster stouts came about from a Victorian English pub tradition.
"Oysters and beer were a common food and drink pairing. Mollusks and other shelled seafood were fairly cheap in these times, and 'stout porter' was overflowing mugs at local taverns. It seemed a match made in beer-heaven, with the sweet and salty oysters balancing the roasty and smooth characteristics of the dark brews."
Soon, the oyster shells (not yet the meat) made their way into the brew kettle, likely to promote clarity. But there were also some flavor changes that occurred: Some of the beer’s bitter flavors were complemented while creating a softer mouthfeel. These stouts ended up being popular and remain a unique segment of the market today, with beers like Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout and 21st Amendment Brewery's Marooned on Hog Island.
In typical Funky Buddha fashion, a traditional oyster stout was eschewed for trying out the salty and briny on a more subtle beer style: the saison.
"In the spirit of bravery and innovation, we're teamed up with our friends from G&B Oyster Bar and Be Nice Restaurants for their Second Annual Oyster Fest," John Linn, Funky Buddha Brewery's brand manager, said. "We wanted to do something different, so we settled on incorporating oysters into a saison. The saison yeast is a perfect match to incorporate the minerality and natural salinity of oysters. Pilsner malt, the funkiness of saison yeast, and the subtle salt and salinity from over 300 pounds of fresh oysters combine to make for a thirst-quenching brew."
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This beer from Funky Buddha uses actual oysters and comes in at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.
It pours with a clingy white foam. Its color is an orange-yellow with some light cloudiness. Aromas are straight-on "traditional" saison-like: herbal with some bubblegum. Flavorwise, it screams out saison but transitions into a midpalate blanket of bitter and briny. There's a saltiness that permeates throughout, most evident after each sip, especially with a little bit of time between each.
Pearl Diver Saison is currently on tap at bars across South Florida, though it's a smaller release, so availability will vary. I got mine at the Brass Tap in Boynton Beach.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.